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How to Find Relief When You're the "Strong Friend"

By now you’ve heard talk of the “strong friend”: the one who always seems to have it together, who has the right answers, and knows how to show up and give you support.

But who do you lean on when YOU are the strong friend? How do you find relief from the pressure of always having to be there for other people?

Today we’re going to talk about:

  1. The reasons why we remain the strong friend, even though we feel overwhelmed by it.

  2. Things we can do to relieve ourselves from the pressure of the role.

  3. How we can show up for the other “strong friends” in our circle.

How to identify the “strong friend” in your group:

  • Who is the person you’re always able to call for her perspective and encouragement?

  • Who is the woman in your group you admire because she seems so tough, unwavering, and self-assured?

  • Who is the woman whose behind the scenes struggles you don’t know? Whenever you ask “How are you?” this friend always finds a way to deflect or minimize the situation.

How to identify if YOU are the “strong friend”?

  • Does everyone in your circle call you for a pep talk when they need reassurance?

  • Do people joke that you are tough, that you’re the one who stands up for everyone?

  • Do you find yourself thinking, “It would be nice if I had someone to call, but I don’t”?Do you feel a little resentful for not having the kind of support you give to others?

Why do strong friends remain in that role?

A lot of us are happy to have that label. In every friend group, there are always labels: the comedian, the Type A, etc. It’s just kind of the ecosystem that develops. You may feel proud that you’ve been labeled as the “strong friend” and stay in the role because you get praise for it.

Many of us stay in this role because we feel uncomfortable being anything but. We’ve found ourselves being proud of our self-sufficiency, and we believe the lie that opening up and asking for help detracts from the fact that we are strong. And when we say “strong friend”, we don’t mean, “Don’t be strong.” Every single woman needs to find a way to be a strong woman.

And lastly, some of us feel like we don’t want to burden our friends with our issues, so we keep them to ourselves.

Problems with being the strong friend:

  • You’re not getting the support you need.

  • There’s pressure to maintain it.

  • Whenever you do have struggles, you’re enduring them in silence.

Here are three tips for finding relief from the pressure:

  1. Rethink how you see asking for help. You can ask for help and still be strong, independent, and capable of doing things on your own. In fact, research shows us that people who ask for help are more likely to get it. How might your friends show up differently if they had all the information?

  2. Understand the power of help. We see it as a burden, but ironically, asking for help actually brings friends closer together. Telling your friends you have a struggle gives them an opportunity to show up for you, and it makes them feel good.

  3. Think about what opportunities your friends have to be there for you. If you find yourself thinking, “They should just know”, this is one of three false friendship expectations: believing that you shouldn’t have to communicate a need or request. Your level of closeness as friends will never get to a place where it transcends the need for communication. Sometimes you do have to spell it out to them. Have you given your friends the opportunity to show up for you?

Now here's your homework for the week:

For the strong friend: Think of something you could actually use help with: perspective on a situation you can’t figure out, someone to give you physical company while you go through an awkward situation, a friend to just listen while you finally get out a bunch of stuff you need to say and process. Then identify someone in your circle who has demonstrated that they’re eager to help you, and go seek her support on it. Most people perk up at the idea of getting to show up for their friends. It will also help you exercise the muscle of getting comfortable leaning into that new space.

For the friend who wants to be supportive of the “strong friend”: Think of your “strong friend”, and the next time you ask her how she is, pause and press. Don’t be super pushy, but prompt for more information. Ask her what’s going on really. Whatever little glimmer she gives you, hold her there and explore further. She’s probably going to need you to prompt her when she wants to share because she feels uncomfortable being in that role. If she’s being non-responsive or retreating back into herself, just offer her something like, “When you are ready to talk about it, I’m eager to listen.”

We’re rooting for you always on your ongoing journey towards better female friendships.

Danielle Jackson, Friendship Speaker

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We provide advice on how to make friends, navigating toxic relationships, friendship breakups, and other issues common in female platonic relationships. Want to get closer with your girl friends? We can help!

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